CET ARTICLE A ETE ACTUALISE LE 24 SEPTEMBRE
Hier, à Harbin (Chine du Nord), des scientifiques russes, chinois et sud - coréens ont engagé un programme ambitieux d'étude sur les grands félins dans la zone transfrontalière russo - chinoise.
A meeting on studying the transboundary movements of rare wild cats using trail cameras and DNA analysis took place in Harbin (China). Representatives of the Amur Tiger Centre, Land of the Leopard National Park and the Institute of Biology and Soil Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Far East participated in the event.
The DNA monitoring of Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards started earlier this year in north China, with support from the Russian Environment Ministry. At the first stage, experts collected samples of fur and feces. The materials were used to extract samples of the animals’ DNA at the Institute of Biology and Soil Science labs. During the final stage, the DNA samples are to be studied with special equipment in Harbin.
At the meeting, Russian, Chinese and South Korean experts discussed the scope and timeline of the research. According to preliminary estimates, 250 DNA samples of rare wild cats from the two countries will be sent to the labs. The research may take several months, after which the samples will be studied again at Seoul National University.
Sergei Aramilev, director of the Primorye branch of the Amur Tiger Centre, noted that over the past years, the data available on the population of Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards in China has significantly expanded, owing in part to the project.
“The upward trend in the number of the two rare wild cats in China is partially due to the work of Russian government and public organisations. Most of the leopards and tigers inhabiting these areas move across the Russian-Chinese border. Also, I would like to note the efforts of our colleagues from China, because the animals have been spotted further away from the border, and there have been sightings of females with cubs,” Sergei Aramilev added.
Le même jour, plusieurs villes et villages russes et chinois ont organisé de concert le "festival du léopard de l'Amour". Voir WWF Russie (en russe), hier.
Voir aussi : gb times, le 24 septembre. Zhanna Koiviola. "Russia and China protecting the endangered Amur leopard".
As part of Russia and China's active expansion of their cooperation in various fields, scientists and conservationists from the two countries have joined together in studying and protecting the Amur leopard, the rarest large cat on the planet.
Russia’s “Land of the Leopard” National Park, a federal nature reserve located on the southeastern border with China, and the Beijing Normal University, China’s leading research hub for the Amur leopard, are both fully committed to saving the critically endangered species from extinction.
Last month, Russian and Chinese researchers attended an inaugural meeting in the Russian city of Vladivostok. There, they verified the number of wild Amur leopards in their respective countries and, for the first time ever, compared their data.
Yelena Salmanova, Deputy Director for Science at the “Land of the Leopard” National Park, told gbtimes about the meeting and its results, as well as further joint activities planned for the future.
From both sides of the border
The Amur leopard's prime habitat is now restricted to the Primorsky province of the Russian Far East and to Chinese border areas. That is why joint efforts from both sides of the border are needed to measure the world population of this rare animal.
In Russia, tracking leopard numbers is a longstanding and well-established procedure. According to Salmanova, the only way to estimate the size of the population was previously by analyzing their tracks in winter time; a method which was considered unreliable because of its high dependency on weather conditions. But after camera traps were installed at the park in early 2012, Russian researchers became able to update their census data all year round.
Conversely, keeping track of the Amur leopard population is a relatively new thing for China. Here, the size of the leopard population was unknown until recently, as Salmanova explains.
“Three years ago, the Beijing Normal University took on responsibility for studying the Amur leopard. It was then that the camera traps were installed along the border with Russia, allowing both parties to document the animals more efficiently.”
The so-called Tiger-Leopard Observation Network established by the Beijing Normal University now covers an effective area of 6,000 km2, adjacent to the “Land of the Leopard” park in Russia.
Data and experience exchange
Over three years of photo monitoring, Chinese researchers gathered sufficient data on the Amur leopard population to present it to their Russian colleagues for the first time.
“Our primary goals were to negotiate our future cooperation and to share our data,” says Salmanova when asked about August’s meeting. “Together, we estimated the world population of the Amur leopard to be at least 80 animals.”
The term “at least” is used because experts are still unaware of the situation in North Korea, a possible habitat for the Amur leopard: “It’s likely that a few leopards can be found there as well.”
70 of the documented leopards live in Russia, and another 10 in China.
“The result was more or less as expected. We knew that about 70 leopards could be found on the Russian side of the border. We also realized that, with their gradually increasing population, China would be the most likely direction for them to expand into.”
Comparisons of the two countries' sets of photo-monitored data showed a lot of duplicates. This, Salmanova explains, means that the leopards actively move across the border.
“Leopards wander back and forth across the border. Unlike people, they don’t need passports to do so.”
Following the leopards’ example
As if following the example set by their leopards “visiting” each other across the border, the Russian and Chinese researchers agreed to deepen and expand their bilateral contact.
“This was our first meeting, but we hope that such activities will continue. We need to regularly exchange data and experience, and to always work together,” says Salmanova.
As a result of the meeting, the “Land of the Leopard” National Park and the Beijing Normal University have signed a long-term agreement to further exchange information about the leopard population on the border.
“The Russian researchers have both wider and richer experience when it comes to observation and conservation of the Amur leopard, while the Chinese researchers are very diligent. They learn quickly and have millions of fresh ideas,” Salmanova notes enthusiastically.
A fresh perspective and plenty of experience – isn’t that just what the Amur leopards need to pull them back from the brink of extinction?
commenter cet article